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Category Archives: retention management

May 20, 2009 – 10:11AM

Google, concerned by the recent departures of several top executives, has developed an algorithm to try to identify which employees are likely to quit, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The Journal said the internet search and advertising giant had turned to mathematical formulas because it was “concerned a brain drain could hurt its long-term ability to compete.”

The newspaper said Google examined data from employee reviews and promotion and pay histories to try to identify which of its 20,000 employees were most likely to leave the California-based company.

Laszlo Bock, who runs human resources for Google, told the Journal the algorithm helps the company “get inside people’s heads even before they know they might leave.”

The newspaper said Google officials were reluctant to share details of the formula, which is still being tested, but it had already identified employees “who felt underused, a key complaint among those who contemplate leaving.”

Edward Lawler, director of the Centre for Effective Organisations at the University of Southern California, told the Journal Google was “clearly ahead of the curve” in taking a more quantitative approach to personnel decisions.

The Journal quoted current and former Google employees as saying the company is losing talent because some employees feel they can’t make the same impact as the company matures.

Recent departures from Google include Tim Armstrong, a senior vice president, who left in March to head AOL, display-advertising chief David Rosenblatt, and Asia-Pacific and Latin America president Sukhinder Singh Cassidy.

Others who have left recently for start-ups such as Facebook and Twitter include lead designer Doug Bowman, engineering director Steve Horowitz and search-quality chief Santosh Jayaram, the Journal said.

Maybe it was just me, but I was amazed pre-GFC at how many employers were complaining about skill shortage and their struggles to find candidates, talking about their employer branding and employer of choice strategies, but who were still using the approaches and technologies they used when labour was plentiful…and not noticing the contradiction….

12 May 2009 8:17am

Corporate career sites should be customised to their target audience and manage candidates’ job expectations, according to technology and HR expert Gerry Crispin.

Too often, they fail to engage candidates in ways that influence their career decisions and only very rarely do they let candidates know what to expect during the recruitment process, he says.

Crispin told last week’s Australasian Talent Conference that career sites should:
be customised to your target audience – know who you want to hire and tailor your content and design to those people. To engage people, they should recognise “people like me”;

cross-link to other platforms – have a Facebook page, for example, that scrolls your hot jobs;

demonstrate a sense of urgency – have a chat room where potential candidates can ask live questions;

omit static information and diagrams of ‘career ladders’ – “it gives the wrong message”;

offer a user guide – “If you’re interested in doing this, go here, or if you just want more information about us, go here”;

increase the transparency of the application process – offer “clear data about how you hire people and what the process is”. Explain how frequently you have jobs open and what they are;

detail your community involvement – “what are you dealing with in terms of sustainability? People make decisions based on that”;

manage job expectations – “ask key questions of employees that get deep into core values of your company, such as how they excel in terms of performance, and how they innovate in terms of products”, and post videos of their answers. The messages on the site must be aligned with the reality or people won’t stay;

tie in self assessments – more employers are doing this, but the next step is to share the data with applicants. “Both the organisation and [the applicant] should know whether [they] should go forward; and

respect candidates – “acknowledge every action”. Disclose what comes next in the process; promise to protect applicants’ data; offer them status updates and explain why they weren’t selected.
“Most companies are not here yet,” Crispin says, “but you see pieces of it being built in the most competitive organisations”.

By Europe correspondent Emma Alberici

Posted 6 hours 3 minutes ago

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has welcomed Australia’s plan to introduce a parental leave scheme but says it is less generous than what is offered by other countries.

Of all the advanced economies, Australia and the United States are the only countries that do not offer statutory paid-maternity leave.

Economist Willem Adema of the OECD’s Social Policy Division welcomes the announcement of an Australian scheme to begin in 2011 but says the amount allocated to it is low when judged against similar schemes around the world.

While Australia’s proposal is means tested, the paid leave offered in the other 38 other OECD countries is open to all parents, regardless of income.

The OECD reports that in many European countries parents are given between 75 and 100 per cent of their wages for up to 18 months.

May 10, 2009 12:00am

WORKING mothers should be allowed time-out – and private space – for breastfeeding at work, says retired senator Natasha Stott Despoja.

The former leader of the Democrats, who quit politics last year to spend more time with her family, said Australian women were still being denied their chance to “have it all”.

And paid maternity leave, as well as breastfeeding breaks, were part of “a suite of reforms” needed for women to achieve a healthy work-family balance.

“I am a great believer that women can and should have it all and the only thing holding them back is a lack of support in society,” mother-of-two Ms Stott Despoja says.

“It’s not about us. We don’t have to choose one pursuit over the other.”

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Herald Sun, Ms Stott Despoja also reveals:

SHE “wouldn’t rule out” a return to politics, but has no regrets about quitting Canberra last year;

BEING a mother to Conrad, 4, and Cordelia, 14 months, has made her “a more relaxed person”;

SHE believes family, and mothers in particular, are undervalued in Australia;

HER bid to help women in developing countries across the globe.

And the long-term campaigner for paid maternity leave admits feeling “nervous” about Tuesday’s Federal Budget.

Ms Stott Despoja says the global financial crisis would be no excuse if a government-funded plan was left out, because “the economics show it is easily do-able”.

And she warns that progress on family-friendly schemes, such as breastfeeding breaks, has largely stalled.

Ms Stott Despoja says the right to breastfeeding breaks could be enshrined in workplace agreements and that most businesses were capable of providing “a clean, private and secure room” for mothers to breastfeed or express milk.

“It’s a short interruption to her (working) day,” she says.

But while this issue remains close to Ms Stott Despoja’s political heart, it no longer applies personally.

She quit her 13-year senate career last June and lives in Adelaide with her husband, former Liberal Party adviser Ian Smith, and their children.

But her resignation was in no way an admission women can’t have careers and family.

“I have had a wonderful, full-time – more than full-time – career and I was really proud of how I balanced work and family because everyone knows it involves a degree of sacrifice or difficulty,” she says.

“I like to think I am living proof of what feminism is all about and that is choice.

“I have been in the fortunate position where I could make that choice. And for me (resigning) was such a clear decision, the right decision.

“That’s not because I don’t love politics or my party.

“But there were certain things in my family’s life that I didn’t want to miss out on, like going with Conrad on his first day (of pre-school) and seeing my husband more often.

“I’m really, really enjoying spending quality time with my children. It’s absolutely wonderful.”

The path to two-time parenthood was complicated for Ms Stott Despoja, who today celebrates her fifth Mother’s Day.

In 2006, when Conrad was almost two, Ms Stott Despoja had emergency surgery for an ectopic pregnancy, when the embryo grows outside the uterus.

Looking back, she says it was difficult when her private heartache became public.

“I had experienced media scrutiny (before) . . . but some issues are particularly private and personal,” she says.

“But as public figures, you don’t often get to decide to what extent these issues get talked about.”

As well as being a full-time mother, Ms Stott Despoja has positions on the boards of beyondblue, the Advertising Standards Board and the Melbourne-based Burnet Institute for medical research.

Ms Stott Despoja today launches the Burnet Institute’s Women for Women campaign aimed at improving the health of women across the globe.,21985,25454025-2862,00.html

08 May 2009 8:24am

Employers should stop thinking about recruitment and retention with a “war” mentality, and approach talent mobility with a new mindset, according to Melbourne Business School’s Dr Ian Williamson.

“The war for talent is over,” he told the Australasian Talent Conference in Sydney yesterday, “but it’s not because of the economic recession; it’s because talent won”.

“From the [employer] perspective, there’s no coming back from this defeat.”

Even while voluntary turnover has decreased as a result of the global economic downturn, the mobility of top talent has continued. “That hasn’t stopped at all, and if you talk to business leaders what they’ll tell you is the time to really get somebody of top talent is when you’re having a difficult business period.

“I don’t think that a recession has any impact on those individuals who are truly skilled in their position. Those individuals are always going to be in demand. So while we may have had some cooling off with voluntary turnover rate, for those truly valuable individuals this hasn’t been a big impact.”

Employers must work out how to deal with employee mobility, he says, because it will only increase.

“War” mentality unhelpful
The “war for talent” mentality of the last 10 years has not enhanced employers’ understanding of how to deal with mobility, says Williamson, an associate professor of management at the Melbourne Business School. The common thinking has been that when an employer lures talent from a competitor, it has “won” (and the competitor has “lost”), but he questions whether the issue is really that cut and dry.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs, he points out, pioneered a different way of thinking when it recognised that the hedge funds started up by former top talent became some of its most lucrative clients – “they lost talent, but it wasn’t as if they didn’t get something out of this”.

Employee mobility is not “win or lose”, he says. Employers must see every employee as a potential source of “social capital” and potential goodwill ambassador for the organisation – someone who will say good things about the business and help generate revenue.

So employers should think: “While I may no longer have access to your human capital – your knowledge skills and abilities – and while I may no longer have you as an employee, that does not mean that the organisation cannot still derive value from the relationships that we have developed over time.”

Develop alumni, manage exits
There are two broad ways to manage talent mobility, Williamson says. The first is to develop formal ties with ex-employees through alumni programs.

In most organisations now, “at best we might give them a pat on the back and say ‘good luck’; at worst we might think of them as traitors.

“But very rarely in organisations do we think and strategically plan to have an ongoing relationship with them.”

He points out: “We spend millions and millions of dollars on recruitment, trying to get people who have no relationship with us to talk to us – people who have no reason to pick up the phone – we call them all the time and plead ‘please, please, please pick up the phone to have a conversation with us’.

“How much time and energy do we spend trying to call people who used to work for us, who like us, who know us and who would gladly give us 30 minutes to talk about what’s going on in our organisation? Seems as if there might be a potential for a higher level return in terms of our time and our energy.”

The second way is to strategically manage employee exits. This is particularly important right now when many organisations are having a lot of involuntary turnover, Williamson says.

“What are we doing with those relationships? How are we managing that? We’re generating a whole population of former employees that are going to go off; some are going to work for our competitors, that might be a bad thing for us; some of them are going to work for co-operator firms – suppliers, potential clients, existing clients. How are we managing that process? What are we doing as they go through that exit process to ensure that we still maintain some type of positive relationship with them? Are we considering the potential social capital benefits as they exit?

“They’re going to have an immediate impact on shaping the brand and the image of that organisation, and no matter how much you might spend on a marketing plan or a branding strategy, it won’t overcome word of mouth.

“This has the potential to be a great thing. If we’ve done it right, they can be great ambassadors. They can recommend company products, they can refer new talent, they can be sources of new knowledge. But it can be very difficult to overcome if we do it wrong.

“It really is important to clearly communicate why we’re doing this. It’s important because it creates a sense of fairness. While things may have been unfortunate, you don’t want your employees saying it was an unfair situation, because that’s not going to generate goodwill.”

Outplacement services might seem expensive, he says, but employers will often recoup the cost if just one employee generates a new client.

Alumni recruitment often “hit or miss”
Alumni recruitment is often “hit or miss”, Williamson says, because few organisations have a formal strategy in place.

“It tends to be that a manager has an opening – they’re desperate to get somebody in, they want somebody good – and because they have a relationship with a former employee they call that person up [and] go outside of the HR process.

“What I would recommend is if you have the database of individuals who used to work for you, there’s nothing to stop you from sending out announcements of positions. You have their [CVs]; you know what they were doing in your organisation; you can screen before you even send out the messages, and so you can say ‘we think you would be an excellent candidate for this. I know you left – we have your information from your exit interviews as to why you left – we think we can address those concerns, would you mind having a conversation?’

“That’s an email you can’t send to a cold candidate.”


Three-quarters of Australian workers believe their current skills will be out of date within five years, according to a recent survey.

The survey of almost 100,000 people in 34 countries, including more than 13,000 in Australia, shows that even in an economic recession, training and skills development are still important.

The Kelly Global Workforce Index finds that almost one-half of the respondents believe the training currently provided by their employers will not meet their future career needs.

Competitive advantage

Kelly Services managing director James Bowmer said that in an increasingly competitive global economy, investing in training for vital employees can become a key competitive advantage for firms.

‘Training may not seem a priority in the present economic climate, but organisations which devote the resources will be more likely to see higher productivity and profitability in the future,’ Bowmer said.

Changing labour market

The survey highlights the significance that employees across the generational age groups place on training and skills development to sustain them in a rapidly changing labour market.

Among the key findings of the survey:
Baby boomers (aged 48–65) are most worried about the level of training, with 59% saying it is not sufficient to upgrade skills and advance their career.
83% of Gen X (aged 30–47) say that within the next five years, their skills will need to be upgraded to keep pace with changes in the workplace.
73% of Gen Y (aged 18–29) see the provision of training as a joint responsibility between the employer and employee.

On-the-job training is the preferred form of training nominated by employees.

Human resource professionals come under scrutiny, with almost one-half of all respondents saying their HR department has not helped them to achieve their employment goals.

Across generations, women generally are more concerned than men about their skill set and have a higher expectation of their employers’ HR departments in managing their careers.

Among respondents, almost three-quarters (74%) say that training should be a joint responsibility between an employer and employee.

On-the-job training preferred

The preference among those surveyed is for on-the-job training (48%), followed by professional development courses (31%), self-initiated learning (11%) and formal university or college qualifications (10%).

Bowmer said the findings reveal the depth of concern across the population at the capacity of the current skills base to meet new workforce challenges.

‘The current economic environment has made people very aware of their skills and whether they will be sufficient to survive the recession and beyond, into a period of economic recovery,’ Bowmer said.

‘It is only very recently that we faced skills shortages across many industries, and unless skills and training are enhanced, that situation may occur in the future.’

‘Increased competition for jobs combined with technological change makes it vital that employees are assisted to become even more productive, through the best training possible.’

06 May 2009 6:28am

More than half of employers still believe there is a talent shortage and that it is having a negative impact on their organisation, according to the Randstad 2009 Employment Trends Report.

The proportion of employers affected by the shortage is lower than last year (59% versus 67%), the report says, but nearly half (46%) complain it is increasing workload stress among staff (46%).

Some 22 per cent say company performance is suffering and 14 per cent are reporting higher turnover.

These are problems that recruiters can focus on when selling the benefits of their service to potential clients, the report indicates.

Not surprisingly, respondents to the survey (2,682 across Australia, New Zealand and Singapore) say their biggest human capital challenges for the next 12 months will be managing internal change (20%), people and productivity (19%) and human capital costs (15% – up from 4% last year), rather than attraction and retention.

Report can be downloaded form here:

By Ian McPhedran
Herald Sun
May 02, 2009 12:01am

A MASSIVE shift in global power away from the US has influenced the Federal Government to increase defence spending to a record $300 billion over a decade.

In the biggest military equipment upgrade in the nation’s history, the Defence White Paper details a $100 billion shopping list that includes new submarines, warships, fighter jets, cruise missiles, helicopters, spy planes, drones and cyber-warfare equipment.

The build-up is intended to defend Australia from potential threats, ranging from nuclear conflict to failed states and water wars, the Herald Sun reports.

The document, entitled Force 2030, will be launched by Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon in Sydney today.

The White Paper focuses on the massive shift in global power away from the US to countries such as China, India and Russia.

It tackles the new ball game by creating a bigger, stronger and more advanced military force.

The document argues that the primary role of the military is to defend Australia from attack.

“The main role of the ADF should continue to be an ability to engage in conventional combat against other armed forces,” the paper says.

As expected, the focus of the 20-year plan will be the navy and on securing Australia’s maritime approaches.

To this end, the Government will buy 12 “future submarines”, to be built in South Australia, eight advanced frigates and 20 2000-tonne offshore combat vessels.

The document doesn’t specify whether any warships will be built at Melbourne’s BAE Systems dockyard in Williamstown, where the navy’s Landing Helicopter Dock project is due to start next year.

The submarines will be quieter than the Collins Class boats, able to travel much farther and remain underwater for longer, and carry secure, real-time communications and uninhabited underwater vehicles.

The submarine plan will hinge on the navy chief’s ability to better manage his underwater workforce and attract new submariners.

In addition to the two 25,000-tonne amphibious ships and three destroyers already on order, it will give the navy a 15,000-tonne sealift vessel to carry supplies and troops, as well as six seagoing landing craft capable of carrying armoured vehicles.

The navy will also get 24 helicopters and access, with the army, to a further 46 multi-role helicopters.

Besides the $45 billion earmarked for the navy, the RAAF will spend more than $35 billion to replace ageing jet fighters and spy planes, acquire a fleet of large, high-altitude, unmanned aircraft and maritime patrol planes, and 10 medium-lift, fixed-wing aircraft.

The army will receive about $20 billion worth of extra troops and support equipment, including seven Chinook heavy-lift helicopters, advanced communications and intelligence-gathering equipment, helicopters and hand-launched missiles.

The document concludes that war between states, including major powers, remains a risk.

It also provides for better pay, conditions and housing for the Australian Defence Force’s 55,000 uniformed personnel.,27574,25417217-5012587,00.html?referrer=email&source=eDM_newspulse

BHP Billiton Ltd says it is going ahead with the multi-billion dollar expansion to turn its Olympic Dam mine in the South Australian outback into the largest open cut on earth, but the miner still needs approval from the federal and state governments.

The open cut at Olympic Dam would be biggest man-made hole in the world, lifting ore production at the site six-fold, which would require expanded minerals processing facilities.

Underpinning the proposed expansion is uranium exports to countries like China, BHP said.

BHP has laid out an ambitious timetable for redevelopment in its 4600-page environmental impact statement (EIS) today and estimates excavation work to begin in July 2010 at the earliest.

“The expansion described in this latest EIS would be a progressive development requiring construction activity over a period of 11 years,” the miner said in a statement.

BHP said the expansion could lift uranium oxide output to up to 19,000 tonnes a year from 4,500.

“Exporting uranium to new customers like China will be an integral part of creating value from the Olympic Dam ore body,” said Dean Dalla Valle, chief operating officer for the company’s Uranium Australia unit.

“We can do this with confidence because China is subject to the same strict safeguards arrangements as all of our other customers, he said.

Australia’s uranium industry has been hamstrung since the early 1980s by political hostility to the nuclear fuel, but long-standing bans on new mines by various state governments are gradually being lifted in the face of economic crisis.

The national government is also encouraging more uranium mining and courting new export business in China.

BHP, facing downturns in its major markets as the crisis bites, has cut 200 jobs at Olympic Dam as part of some 6,000 cuts worldwide as it battles falling commodities prices and demand.

The global miner said the additional support infrastructure would include a coastal desalination plant, a new power line and possibly a gas fired power station, a train line, an airport and additional housing for workers.

The environmental grounds of the expansion still need to be approved by the federal and state governments, and then by the BHP board. Only after board approval will the miner provide cost estimations.

The miner has set the timeframe of the project at 40 years, but has left the door open to a longer operation life, suggested by the size of the mineral resources.

A longer life for the mine will require more environmental approvals.

The draft EIS will be on public display for 14 weeks, when submissions can be made to government.

However, Dalla Valle said “we still have a lot of work to do before we can tell you when this project may start and how much it may cost”.

Some analysts have suggested the expansion could cost as much as $20 billion.

With no nuclear power industry of its own but sitting on the world’s single largest source, Australia sells all its uranium overseas, making Australia the world’s second-largest supplier behind Canada.

Russia and India have also expressed strong interest in buying Australian uranium to fuel nuclear power plants.

30 April 2009 8:19am

Australian HR departments are struggling to meet the challenges created by recession-driven cost-cutting with fewer resources and less control over decision-making, a new study confirms.

Two in five HR directors feel they have less autonomy than a year ago – almost 10 times the number reporting an increase in control, the survey by Kelly Services has found.

“More control, more information requests, and more centralised decision-making” summarises the responses of many HR directors to the survey, which asked 56 members of the International HR Directors Forum about cost-containment measures and the GFC’s impact on the HR function itself.

One HR director notes that these demands make HR “much more reactive: you can’t be proactive when you are constrained by centralised control”.

The greater scrutiny has also led to a “speeding up of operating rhythms” – from quarterly to monthly reporting, and monthly to weekly – which inevitably leads to a greater workload.

Parent companies’ expectations of their Australian operations are “overly influenced” by what is happening in their home market, the report says, with the parent – in most cases – having a more severe view than local management about the cost-reduction measures needed.

Cost-cutting measures
Virtually all respondents to the survey have already implemented cost-cutting measures, with the most common being reduced use of contractors (74%), hiring freezes (70%) and headcount reductions (66%).

Australian subsidiaries have been required to take steps even where the GFC hasn’t yet had a noticeable impact on local operations. This is despite the report noting that, “given the state of the key US and European markets, Australian revenues (typically around 2-5% of global revenues) are hardly likely to be a decisive consideration in global cost reduction decisions”.

Reducing accrued annual leave entitlements is another strategy being employed by many of the respondents, with one director pointing out that pressure to reduce this liability on the balance sheet is “inevitable” and another saying, “it’s not just a financial issue, it’s a wellbeing issue. It’s not healthy for people not to be taking adequate leave breaks, so we are pushing this angle in our discussions with affected employees.”

Almost half (43%) of the respondents have reduced their training expenditures, but some companies have made a firm decision to keep investing in this area.

One director acknowledges the need to continue to upskill and invest in employees in order to meet business objectives, adding that in circumstances where bonuses and pay rises are out of the question, “we can at least educate and develop our people”.

Only “an exceptional company indeed” would have considered salary reductions 18 months ago, the report says, but now almost one in five employers (17%) is considering this move in the next six-to-twelve months.

This is arguably one of the most unpopular cost reduction measures and, given the need for employees to agree, the most difficult to achieve, the report says.

Added pressures
Among the added pressures HR directors report being subject to are:
more scrutiny of new hires – there are “more hoops” to go through to get new staff on board. In other cases, HR’s involvement in recruitment has been eliminated in favour of line managers contacting agencies directly, leading to a higher risk of hiring employees with poor cultural fit;

falling morale and engagement – nearly 60 per cent of HR respondents have noticed their company’s responses to the GFC having a moderate or significant effect in this area. HR is now faced with a “changed organisational psyche”, when employees realise for the first time that their company faces the same hard realities as everyone else; and workers who no longer feel in control of their careers, creating a “prison mentality” where employees who aren’t happy don’t feel confident to leave;

diminishing returns on the communications investment – communication (almost to the extent of over-communication) has become a more important task to resource, and HR has identified a need to “communicate the same message in many media: some like email, others prefer face-to-face, and others like to have opportunities for discussion”. The drain on HR’s already limited resources is proving problematic, the report says;

employees in need of support – the HR role is now more about providing reassurance and support for employees, with respondents noticing more cases of personal trauma such as financial problems, stress and relationship breakdowns; and

reduced resources – some 60 per cent of companies are attempting to meet these challenges with less HR resources than they had a year ago. Only one company reported an increase in HR funding.